Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP’s Chairman Spoke, and (Mostly) Said the Right Thing

Chairman Carl-Henrik Svanberg, Tony Hayward, and other top BP executives met with President Barack Obama at the White House and he delivered. BP promised to do everything in their power to undo the damage they have wrought, and compensate those that have and will suffer economic losses due to the spill. BP’s commitment includes a $20 billion fund that will be managed by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the payment of compensation to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

President Barack Obama, who was immediately castigated by the insta-pundits, and even taken to task by New York Times in an editorial for his speech last night, today came out with full force and seemingly in full control.

When the top executives from BP exited the White House, they were met by a press corps out for blood, but the silent Swede, Carl-Henrik Svanberg, didn’t act the part he had been assigned. Commentators were looking for arrogance, European arrogance, and one CNBC commentator quipped “is that a smirk on his face,” but the smile on Svanberg’s face was not arrogance, but nerves. He felt the immense pressure, and his English was broken and he talked about the affected people in the Mexican Gulf region as the “small people” (probably a direct translation of the Swedish expression “småfolket” which means common people, the little guy vs. the big and powerful.) He was obviously not aware that “small people” in America refers to “little people” (dwarfs.) But this should be written off as an honest mistake. What was more important was that Svanberg could report that BP is doing the right thing, and that they had agreed to President Obama’s demands. They have also decided to cancel all further dividends for 2010, amounting to over $10 billion, money that can now be made available to the people in the Gulf region, rather than the shareholders.

Svanberg expressed full understanding for President Obama’s “frustration,” and asked the American people for forgiveness. When asked about mistakes and wrongdoings leading up to the disaster, he said that the board is investigating this.

For president Obama, the last two days has been a proof of strength, a show of a different kind if strength than the pundits like to see. Less swagger and more analysis and then action. It is politics for result, even if it doesn’t always look as good on TV as when a president dresses up in a military uniform and declares Mission Accomplished.

For BP and Chairman Svanberg, the meeting in Washington, DC., was the first step out of the pit it dug for itself.

Hans Sandberg

Post a Comment

Hubble Telescope Images